Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Celebrating 10 years together at ubuntu in Napa.

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Yesterday, Ryan & I celebrated 10 years as a couple! We kicked things off by exchanging gifts at midnight, due mainly to impatience, but it was a fun way to start the festivities. I was floored & impressed by the matching "Key to My Heart" necklace & bracelet I received; it's very much like a tattoo I recently added to my love themed collection with a heart padlock to Ryan's key. Less sentimental, but still fun, I gave Ryan the gift of Rock Band, which has already distracted us from getting places on time or getting tasks done! ha.

We started the morning with French Toast (Ryan's favorite) & Farmers Market Strawberries, then headed up to Napa to try ubuntu a newcomer in Wine Country serving vegetarian & vegan dishes with a focus on local, sustainable practices. They have a biodynamic garden & grow many of the items you find on your plate themselves! The restaurant is beautiful & welcoming, a lovely place to spend a special night. They knew it was out anniversary & immediately came to the table with complimentary champagne!

We started with the Chickpea Fries with herbs & Romesco sauce, a recommendation from friends, & we weren't disappointed. Crisp, delicious, & flavorful, we had no problem polishing off this dish. Also as a starter, we had the fried Padrons with maldon salt. They were soft & slightly sweet with a zip of lime & while the first few were great, I found them a bit too oily for my liking after a bit.

Next, we shared the Grilled Peach & French Bean Panzanella. Garden grown french beans sat atop a grilled peach puree & bread cubes, garnished with basil stem vinegar & 25 year balsamico. Not only was the plating lovely, but the dish was as well. Nice & refreshing, we enjoyed it, but wished there was a more pronounced peach flavor, as we're such fans.

For our entrees, we started with a Strawberry Margherita pizza. ubuntu has cheese on the menu, quite a bit actually, so we asked for this vegan, as it stated "vegan cheese available by request". When we found out the cheese was Follow Your Heart, we opted for no cheese, as we couldn't see a processed soy cheese adding to the flavors of the dishes here. In the end, it was more like a flatbread with a bit of cooked strawberry jam & basil on top, a very tasty flatbread nonetheless. Next time I think well skip the pizzas or hope that the chefs discover the wonders of cashew cheese!

Our other entree was the Anson Mills Grits finished with Corn Pudding & a Friarelli Pepper relish with more fried Padrons. We loved the creamy corn flecked grits & I found myself scraping for every last bite! The relish was sweet & wonderful with the grits & the peppers worked well with this dish, although I left most of them to Ryan.

Finally, were ready for dessert! Typically the restaurant only has one vegan dessert, from what I can tell, which is a float of some sort, but we spied "vegan carrot cupcakes" on the tasting menu & asked if we could order them along with a float. Luckily, they obliged! The cupcakes were adorable, bite sized, & topped in a swirl of cream cheese frosting, pistachios & a mini sweetened carrot. They were moist & spiced, though a bit heavy on the ginger for Ryan's liking, & a nice little treat. The frosting seemed to contain vegan cream cheese of some sort, possibly Follow Your Heart.

The Raspberry Sorbet Float was our final selection & was downright delicious! This refreshing treat started with a base of rosewater soda & contained a scoop of raspberry sorbet, pieces of fresh watermelon & raspberries, tiny tapioca balls, & was garnished in mint. The flavors all melded well together & we marveled about how lovely it down to the very last sip!

Overall, ubuntu is a nice place to dine if you find yourself in Napa. I'd like to see some vegan entrees on the menu, as every entree had cheese on it & the removal of it seemed to leave some of the dishes low on the flavor scale. That being said, their green practices are to be commended & their food is fresh & won't leave you feeling heavy & overly full. We would certainly dine at ubuntu again & it was a lovely place to spend a milestone in our lives.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 4th Ice Cream Social & Potluck, Prop 2 Fundraiser success!

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Potluck mania is alive & well in my home! I love a good potluck, from the monthly brunch I attend, to a Holiday get-together, an excuse to have a spread of food & hang out with friends is alright by me. The 4th of July was utilized as a reason to have people over & due to my current obsession with frozen treats, I hosted an Ice Cream Social & Potluck!

We started with a fabulous food feast with everything from Ethiopian food, noodle & potato salads, & sweet potato fritters, to homemade guacamole & other dips, faux meat skewers & BBQed seitan Shawarma! Everyone dug in to the display with fervor & managed to clean out most of the food options & I found myself reminding people to, "Save room for Ice Cream!".

Initially, I worried about a lack of ice cream, everyone seemed to be bringing dishes instead of a store bought item, which is wonderful, but makes for a bad Make-Your-Own Sundae party. In the end, no worries were needed as we had 17 pints & 7 quarts of vegan ice cream! Imagine opening your freezer to all of those containers! I also made a spread of treats & toppings such as brownies, whipped cream, fruit, nuts, custard, caramel & chocolate sauces, & 2 types of cones.

Once it was ice cream time, a line formed from the kitchen in to my living room, as people took turns approaching the sundae station & loading up on goodies. The clear winner was Double Rainbow Soy Cream, 12 of the pints were their delicious confection & they were quickly demolished! (If you haven't had a chance to try Double Rainbow Soy Cream, seek it out, the Vanilla Bean is BY FAR the best vegan vanilla ice cream I've ever had, no soy beany flavor!) In the end, I had 4 loaded up ice cream sundaes & an upset stomach, but it was totally worth it. I love "make-your-own" parties & this certainly won't be the last one I host!

As I mentioned in my last post, Californians for Humane Farms had a fundraiser to benefit Prop 2, a ballot initiative on the upcoming November election which would allow farm animals to stand up, sit down, & turn around in their enclosures. I'm happy to say the event was a success & raised DOUBLE our expected donation amount! The silent auction went amazingly, thanks to the help of donations from Julie Hasson at Everyday Dish TV, Hannah Kaminsky of My Sweet Vegan, Joni Marie Newman of Cozy Inside, & Isa Chandra Moskowitz of Veganomicon!

In addition to helping plan the event, some sweet treats were also whipped up, courtesy of Sugar Beat Sweets; over 100 mini Vanilla bean cupcakes topped with Peach Mousse! Sadly, I was too sick to attend the event, but Ryan was kind enough to take this photo of the mini cupcakes set up. Thank you to everyone who made the fundraiser a success & don't forget, YES ON PROP 2 in November!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Portland, VegNews Party, CA Humane fundraiser, & a new family member!

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Once again time has slipped away & the posts I've been meaning to make, just haven't made their way here. As I mentioned in my previous post, I went to Portland to check out the so-called "vegan mecca". Watch out kids, you have another convert on your hands, Portland is downright lovely! There's so many places to go & see, it was hard to narrow it all down, but I think I covered the city pretty well & even stayed in two different areas while there.

One of the places I knew I had to try was Flavour Spot, the hot new waffle cart serving up a few vegan options. I was a bit skeptical of the maple butter & vegan sausage combination everyone has been raving about, but HOT DAMN, they weren't lying! I found myself savoring each bite & Ryan had taken only 3 bites when he asked for another!

Of course, I also checked out the vegan mini mall, home of Herbivore, Scapegoat Tattoo, Food Fight, & Sweetpea Baking Company who's various goods I tried over my time there. I seemed to find myself at the mini mall every day, whether as a meet up point, a place to grab a treat, or a way to blow a bunch of money on vegan wares. I almost added a tattoo as well, but it didn't work out this time.

I was lucky enough to spend time with Jess from Get Sconed! as she let me crash at her place for a few nights. We went out to dinner at Blossoming Lotus one night & had delicious raw food, much like when she came to San Francisco & we ate at Cafe Gratitude. Of course, I ended the night with this Chocolate Mint soft serve & on another occasion I had Mocha, both were delicious!

Another blogger I met up with was Webly from Fueled By Popcorn who took me to No Fish, Go Fish, a food cart with delicious stuffed sandwich pockets shaped like fish! How can you resist this adorableness?! We finished up at Voodoo Doughnut where the vanilla Chick O Stick was my favorite of what I tried.

Overall, it was such an eventful trip! From bike riding to jumping on trampolines, meeting bloggers & attending a potluck at Isa's house, it's hard to cram all the places I went in to one post! In addition to the places I've mentioned above, I also ate at the very creative & delicious Nutshell, Hungry Tiger Too (with ShannieCakes), Backspace, & Papa G's Deli, plus I checked out the People's Co Op & New Seasons for snacks & supplies. All in all, I loved Portland & I'm happy Ryan & I will be back there at the end of the month for a camping trip & to celebrate 10 years of dating!

Shortly after Ryan & I returned home, an incredible (& strange) thing happened to us. While taking a walk to our co-op, we did our usual routine of fawning over every dog we see. As we approached a man holding a tiny dog, I couldn't help but comment on how adorable his puppy was! Next thing I know, I am being offered this dog for free & find myself walking down the street with a shivering, hungry puppy in my hands itching from fleas. Introducing STRUMMER, our new little chihuahua baby girl. She's about 11 weeks old, 1 3/4 pounds, & has been determined to be completely healthy by our veterinarian. She's already started getting her shots, going to puppy class, & is on her way to being (even more of) a well manner little bundle of joy!

As expected, the VegNews party was a success. I had a great night chatting it up with vegans from all over the country, including Amanda from Walking the Vegan Line who came all the way from Houston, as well as long time friends from the PPK. Food was provided by local restaurants & chefs, desserts were provided by Sugar Beat Sweets, & there were gals walking around with baskets of mini Clif Bars, Sjaaks Organic Chocolates, & Tofurkey jerky for the taking! Not bad, right?

Now for another important party I'm urging people to attend in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Saturday, July 12th please come Spread Your Wings for the animals at a benefit for Prop 2- the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act at the A.Muse gallery (614 Alabama St. SF) from 6-10 pm. There will be wine, beer, and vegan appetizers, desserts courtesy of Sugar Beat Sweets, comedy by Johnny Steele, plus door prizes & an awesome silent auction which includes items like original artwork by Dan Piraro, spa packages, and a Nintendo WII! It's a $15-20 sliding scale at the door & all proceeds go to the animals! I'll be there with mini cupcakes, please don't miss it!